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Sierra Club Environmental Education Program
Sierra Cubs: Environmental Education Program for Kids

by Jackie McFadden, Lone Star Sierra Cubs Program, August 1999

In response to a need for continuing environmental education (EE) to Sierra Club families and the community, the Lone Star Chapter EE Committee details below the expansion of the Sierra Cubs Program from EE school presentations to a junior naturalist camp which debuted July 1997 and an afterschool program which debuted in 1999. With the Austin pilot having been a success, similar Sierra Cubs Camps are planned in other interested areas of the state. Funding for this project will be through various grants, collaborative efforts, and individual financial supporters. Members of the Environmental Education Committee and volunteers will provide the needed staff support and coordination.

Contact for Lone Star Sierra Cubs Program: Jackie McFadden, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club Environmental Education Director, eeant@austin.rr.com

Goal: Build environmental literacy through a sense of wonder about the natural world.

Objectives: (follows Tblisišs Declaration ­ the framework for EE) … have fun … build an appreciation of nature … create an awareness and better understanding of environmental problems … foster positive patterns of conduct towards the environment and our use of its resources … provide skills needed to play a productive role towards improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values … recreate an overall perspective which acknowledges the fact that natural and man-made environments are interdependent, i.e. therefore acts of today lead to consequences of tomorrow … build active problem-solving and critical thinking skills which encourage initiative, sense of responsibility and a commitment to build a better tomorrow

Strategy: One week junior naturalist camp sessions for 6 to ten-years-old will be offered during the summer, while either 60 or 90 minute school EE presentations and after school programs will be offered during the regular school year to elementary and junior high school classes.

Methods: Simply expand an already effective, existing program. For more than six years, the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club has been delivering EE presentations to private and public elementary and junior high school classes. Upon the schoolšs request, a team of Sierra Club volunteers delivers 60 to 90 minute presentations of various topics: … bats … North American wolves w/ special focus on the Mexican wolf … water resources (what's in it and how does it get there) … becoming a junior naturalist: multiweek program including units on tools and outdoor skills of a naturalist, water/macroinvertebrates, soil, botany, and wildlife

During the 60-90 minute sessions, the team uses various activities with at least 50% of the time devoted to a hands-on section to achieve two main objectives: … Introduce the Sierra Club (Who & What) to the community … Build an appreciation of nature and all the living creatures in it by keeping alive their inborn sense of wonder

The junior naturalist camp, which will run from 9:00 a.m. until noon for five days, will have more time with the youth during non-school sessions (summer) and, therefore, will be able to expand from its original two objectives to the aforementioned list which follows the Tblisišs Declaration. This project will also allow Sierra Club to reach out to entire families as well as their children since parents and guardians may participate in the camp as adult volunteers, if they choose.

Details of Sierra Cubs Camp Debut for the junior naturalist camp, Lone Star Sierra Cubs Camp, was July 1997. The camp was similarly modeled to the State of Franklin Group Sierra Clubšs successful program. However, the focus is on the local area (Austin) environment versus upper east Tennessee.

Simply put, the camp provides instruction, outings, games, and art through a pool of volunteers. Hours are from 9 until noon for one week. Our focus is Wildlife in Your Backyard with a different topic presented each day. Some of these topics may include information on: migrant songbirds, bats, wildflowers/native plants, water resources, endangered/threatened species, and outdoor skills and safety tips.

The cost of the camp is $39 for a one-week session. Nineteen dollars of this registration may be earmarked for a Sierra Club student membership. (This feature is optional.) The Lone Star Sierra Cubs Camp continues to be limited to 25 spots per session. Adult to child ratio is 1:5. During the first year, three volunteers were CPR certified and two were first aid certified. Sierra Cubs Camp is fully insured through the National Sierra Club as an outing program. Any future camp sessions will follow similar patterns.

Schedule:
9:00 a.m. orientation
9:15 outing/topic presentation
10:30 wash up, rest, and snack
10:45 crafts and/or service project
11:30 Earth games
12:00 dismissal

Future Expansion: Austin served as the first location for the junior naturalist camp in 1997, and expanded to two sessions offered in summer 1998. Austin continued to be the camp site in 1999. One session will be for returning campers and one session will be for new attendees. Plans are also underway to debut camps in the Belton, College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston/Galveston, San Antonio areas.


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